Gallons and Gallons of Bacon Fat Haven't Hurt Me


So, the bad news was, I was really busy.

The good news was, I have a constitution that can handle it.

A few weeks ago at work they had this program called "Know Your Numbers," where you could have these tests done, evaluating certain basic indicators of overall health.

And despite the fact that I eat basically whatever I want whenever I want, despite my refusal to even set foot in a gym, and despite growing up in a home where the primary cooking fat was rendered bacon grease, I'm really healthy.

My blood pressure is 110 over 78 (though it shoots right up when I'm upset); my resting pulse is 80; my random blood sugar is 89; my percentage of body fat is 19.5; all that is ideal for my age and so forth. My high density lipoproteins rating is only 51, which wouldn't be good except for the fact that my total cholesterol is 149, which is almost ridiculously low.

Oh--and I have lots and lots of water in my system--I'm very well irrigated.

Regarding the eating what I want when I want--well, it probably helps that sometimes I want to eat a big bowl of steamed zucchini or an entire plate of lightly sauted organic baby spinach (and god, how I wish I could right now--I miss spinach!). I eat chocolate virtually every single day of my life, but I try to balance it out with other things, like cheese or avocado milkshakes.

Regarding the refusal to set foot in a gym--it's true; I vowed that I would never go to a gym again as long as I live: I hate sweating in public and I find exercising on machines unendurably monotonous. But I try to walk briskly for an hour or so three or four times a week, and I also do yoga from time to time.... And apparently my basic metabolism, the number of calories I would burn if I didn't even get out of bed, is on the high side at 1655 calories a day, so that when I do things like run up stairs and dance around my house to some great song, I stay slimmer.

Regarding bacon: I don't eat much of it these days, mostly for ethical reasons, but very occasionally I indulge. There for a decade or so I didn't eat it at all, but until I left home it was a staple in my diet. My mom, born at the height of the Depression and frugal as all hell, kept a jar into which she poured the grease left over every time she cooked bacon. She used that rendered fat for everything from frying onions to greasing cake pans, so that even a chocolate cake with caramel frosting still had a faint bacon flavor. That's how I learned to cook, and it wasn't until I started reading cook books as an anorexic high school student (if you read about and prepare food, you derive pleasure from it that doesn't require you to eat it) that it occurred to me that butter might work better than bacon grease for greasing cake pans. In any event, I probably ate more bacon fat in the first fifteen years of my life than most people in America consume in a lifetime.

After the medical tests I took a survey evaluating certain aspects of my lifestyle, which are generally good as well: I don't smoke; I don't take a lot of prescription drugs; I don't have dangerous hobbies, like deep sea diving or rock climbing; I've learned to take care of my lower back. According to the survey results, the biggest threats to my health come from driving and drinking, not because I do them together, but because I don't do either as cautiously as I should. I tend to drive over the speed limit, especially on highways, and for some reason I don't buckle my seat belt until I've driven a block or two. And I don't tend to drink much when I'm sleeping on my own, but when my insomnia gets bad, vodka is one of my primary sleep aids.

I also have an increased risk of breast cancer, because I haven't given birth, but I can live with that. It doesn't seem worth it at this point to try to have a baby just so I can decrease my chances of dealing with lumps of nastiness in my boobs.

Although I try to weigh consequences, risks and rewards in deciding how to take care of my body and my health while still enjoying my life, I can't help thinking that a lot of this is just luck, especially since I can look at my four siblings and see how some of this boils down to a matter of which side of the family gave us certain genes. Two of my siblings have high blood pressure and problems with cholesterol, like my mom's family; one's hard to categorize since she has her own unique health problems resulting from being anorexic for 15 years; and the other one has a remarkably strong constitution, like me, which we inherited from our dad's side.

However, also like me, that sister has had inexplicable, life-threatening illnesses that mysteriously resolve themselves. And my poor mother seems to have really gotten a raw deal compared to the rest of the family: not only does she have high blood pressure and crohn's disease, but she has somehow developed cirrhosis of the liver--despite never having taken a drink of alcohol in her life. The only thing besides alcoholism that causes it is gall bladder problems, and she's had those forever.

So we'll see if I end up living into my 90s, like so many people on my dad's side seem to do. I have a feeling I might not do quite so well, mostly because of the alcohol thing, whereas most of my relatives totally abstain. But at least I've got some help in terms of how my body manages to regulate itself.


Isn't it nice to have scientific evidence that you have a great body? :-)

I have a tendency to high cholesterol numbers. I'm not an expert, but the way my doctor explained it to me is that neither the overall number nor the HDL number is by itself evidence of a problem. What they are worried about is when the ratio of LDL:HDL is greater than 4:1. The first time I was tested it was around 7:1 (though I also have low blood pressure and no family history of heart disease, so it was worrying but not terribly so). The doctor wanted me to take statin drugs to lower my cholesterol but I resisted because I was worried about long-term side effects. I did manage to bring the raio down to about 4:1 through diet and exercise (both of which are now not going as well as they ought to). Your numbers look like they are excellent.

By the way, who compiles this data? I confess it does sound a slightly creepy note for me. On the one hand, it's great that you had the chance to get all of this information but on the other hand, do you know what else is done with it and whether your privacy has been assured?

How jealous am I? On a scale of 110 over 78 to 1655 calories a day...wait I'm losing track of how jealous I am -- but rest assured, it's in the category of "Extremely." How about processed and prepackaged foods? Have you eaten much of those? It's my completely ignorant opinion that it's all the processed and prepackaged crap that's causing most of the problems. As I eat my Lean Pockets and Handi-Snacks (kidding. I swear).

Just a note that may be of interest, there is a condition called primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) that you can read about here:

I have a male friend with this disease. It's very rare in males. He's participating in a drug study at U of M in the hope of limiting the damage to his liver.

I hope your mother does well.


Spike asks, "By the way, who compiles this data? I confess it does sound a slightly creepy note for me. On the one hand, it's great that you had the chance to get all of this information but on the other hand, do you know what else is done with it and whether your privacy has been assured?"

I don't know who if anyone compiles the data--maybe my institution. I am fairly candid about my various habits, and feel I have nothing to be ashamed of, though, so I don't much mind if the data is retained.

Rebecca asks, "How about processed and prepackaged foods? Have you eaten much of those?"

Yeah, I have. Though I don't eat a lot now, except for Dr Pepper and certain Pepperidge Farms cookies.

And WeaverRose offers info on the gross disease my mother has--thank you.

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on October 26, 2006 12:16 AM.

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